Authors: Michael G. Thomas
ASSAULT ON KHORRAM
By Michael G. Thomas
PART of the
BLACK LEGION SAGA
Copyright © 2012 Michael G. Thomas
Published by Swordworks Books
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.
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Arcadian Titan ‘Olympia’, Thapsacus Sector
The Black Legion was finally assembled, an elite fighting force spread across scores of ships into a mighty Armada. Their name was a simple one, taken from the appearance their dark grey, almost black uniforms gave. It was a mixed force with a great variety of vessels of every shape and size and from a hundred Terran worlds. The heart of the great fleet was the Titans, massive behemoths that carried thousands of crew and warriors. Every single ship and unit trained and equipped for battle. It was Ten Thousand of humanity’s finest warriors, bandits, swashbucklers and looters; each of them ready to take on or attack any enemy they came across. They were different to any army that had gone before them. Unlike the forces of the Terran colonies this was a mixture of warring factions, drawn together by the money of the alien lord, Cyrus. This man, for want of a better word, had much in common with mankind. He looked almost identical, though with a much slender figure that moved with speed and grace. His race, known as the Medes, controlled the largest empire known to the Terrans. A thousand worlds, each ruled by the iron fist of their Emperor and protected by the Imperial Fleet and his legions of warriors. In years past, the Medes had made war against the scattered Terrans, but each time they had stopped their petty squabbling to fight them off. Times had changed though, and now the Terrans were in the pay of their old enemy, the Median Empire and looking to make a great deal of money in the process.
From the window in the observation lounge, Dekarchos Xenophon looked out at the vast Armada. It was an impressive sight; there was no doubt about that. He was surprised to see so many of the Medes own warships nearby. In fact, the more he looked the more he noticed how few Terran vessels there were. No other Titans filled his view, and he could count the Terran capital ships on one hand.
They must be escorting us back to the border worlds,
he thought. The memories of the last few hours were confused, and he was still not entirely sure where they actually were, other than on board their home Titan, the Olympia. The upturned cabinets lay out in a low wall suggested something untoward. A gentle but growing sound of footsteps and shouting came from several directions but all outside of the room. In his right hand, he adjusted his Asgeirr-Carbine; a Laconian close quarter weapon fitted onto the fist and lower arm of a warrior and combined a razor sharp blade and a cut down pulse carbine. Glaucon nodded as he slid out the cartridge from his Doru Mk II Rifle, the standard weapon used by most of the soldiers on the ship. He spoke quietly, doing his best to avoid drawing any attention to them.
“They’ll be here soon. I can hear them in the corridor.”
Dekarchos Devereux snapped back the cocking handle of her own rifle, and it clicked with a satisfying sound. With her weapon ready, she then took up position alongside the blue-haired Tamara. She moved with the confidence of a woman with significant experience in the military. She was tall, even when compared to the burly Glaucon. Xenophon glanced to the main doorway on their left that led inside the observation lounge. It was a large room, and easily capable of holding a hundred people, perhaps more. The space from their improvised barricade to the doorway was nearly fifteen metres away.
“Are you sure it’s Xenias’ warriors?” asked Glaucon.
“I don’t know. All we know is that since the decision to leave, there has been a lot of unrest on the ship. Just remember, we aren’t looking for trouble, we just aren’t going back with Dukas Xenias. We are going to leave this ship at the earliest opportunity,” said Xenophon in as reassuring a voice as he could muster.
“Yes, Dekarchos,” replied Glaucon in a low and slightly muted tone. Xenophon could easily hear the sarcasm in his voice, not least because Glaucon rarely used his friend’s rank except when around other warriors on the ship.
“Don’t be so sure. Maybe it’s Xenias, but maybe it’s Clearchus looking for trouble. It could even be a coup. My advice is to keep your head down and wait for it to pass. You’ve all seen the bodies out there.” Added the old warrior they had met during their short spell in the brig. Marcus was a seasoned warrior, and for the last twenty minutes he had been helping erect the barricades to defend the place.
“Why do they want us?” asked Tamara, her voice shaking with nerves.
Dekarchos Devereux turned her head but stayed in her defensive position.
“Maybe they don’t, there are lots of factions on this ship. We were pretty vocal about rejoining the Armada though, and that isn’t going to make us many friends.”
They all waited in silence, each listening to the sounds outside.
Xenophon might be in charge, but his rank was recent in this company and few took him too seriously. It wasn’t helped by the fact that half of his unit had deserted to Xenias already. His promotion was more honorific than anything else, even though it matched that of sergeant in other militaries. His command of ten warriors, an honour awarded to him by the Strategos himself, was proving more a hindrance than a benefit right now. It had been granted following their first bloody action at the Cilician Gates. The battle was a messy affair and had resulted in nearly all the deployed Legion’s forces being captured or killed. Fortune, and a spur of the moment decision, had saved Xenophon and ultimately the operation.
“Why don’t we just go back with the Arcadians?” asked Tamara with a desperate, almost pleading tone to her voice.
“Because, my dear, if we go back, we don’t get paid. Xenophon and I are both wanted men back on Attica. Until we have money and help, we’ll simply be clapped in irons as soon as we set foot on the ground,” explained Glaucon.
“Not us, though?” she continued, this time looking at the stern figure of Roxana Devereux. She said nothing for a moment before almost being forced to turn to the girl and say something.
“Well...I don’t know about you, sweetie, but I need the work. No more Alliance and no more military contracts. Girl’s gotta eat.”
Tamara shook her head in an irritated fashion, but it was simple. None of them was in a position to leave, not yet anyway. The expedition organised by Cyrus had taken a lot of time and effort to get on board with, and so far they had suffered but earned little. The payoff would be great, but it wouldn’t be for a few more weeks.
They waited, as they had for the last fifteen minutes. Each wore their dark grey, almost black uniforms, and every one of them was heavily armed and expecting trouble. They each had their own special skills and attributes. Xenophon was widely regarded as the smartest but lacked some of the more subtle skills in communication. He was also the tallest of the four; with Devereux close behind him. His build was slender and almost feminine, especially when compared to most of the gruff Arcadians on board the Titan. His cropped blonde hair and dark blue eyes made him stand out from a crowd, and a trait that did not match his introverted personality. Stood next to him were his three companions; the stalwart, if cocky, Glaucon; Roxana Devereux, the ex-Lieutenant from the Alliance Navy; and lastly, Tamara. Unlike the other three, Tamara had no political or military expertise. She was a young runaway, and her only experience, as far as the others could tell, was in crime and minor merc work. Her electric blue hair and frequently worn leather jacket seemed specially to draw attention to her wherever she went.
Xenophon looked back out of the window and remembered what the great Armada had looked like just hours before. Each of the ships had sat waiting for their orders. He could see them all now, especially the four great Titans; the largest Terran ships ever built. Each was the size of a small city and fitted out with the troops and firepower to match an entire planet. Scores of capital ships waited in loose formations around the Titans while squadrons of fighters screamed past on the lookout for potential problems. It wasn’t just the Terrans though, no, only a short distance away sat the Median fleet under the command of Ariaeus. This suspicious looking Median noble was a close friend of Cyrus and his right hand man when it came to managing the Median contingent. This force was easily double the size and included even more heavy warships.
So many different nationalities and cultures, is it a surprise that there would be so much trouble at this betrayal?
He considered the events of the last few hours.
It was a massive force made up of Attican sailors, Laconian warriors and Arcadian scouts, each the sworn enemy of a hundred worlds but now brothers in the great enterprise. The trouble was that since the decision by their commander, Dukas Xenias, to leave, they were now on their own. The Armada of hundreds of ships was now at least one jump away and moving further away with every minute. Like many of the experienced warriors, he had found work after being exiled from his own lands. Even his experience and training wasn’t enough when trouble started. The trouble, or more specifically the schism in the fleet, could not have happened at a worse time. It had been only two weeks since the violence at the Citadel, deep in the heart of the Cilician Gates; a time when nearly three hundred Terrans had been killed and the same number injured. Compensation from Satrap Tissaphernes had proven substantial, but the losses were still keenly felt. It wasn’t the fighting, the money or even the casualties that had caused the dissent. It was the news from their paymaster and overall leader, Lord Cyrus of the Median Empire that had arrived earlier that day. The entire Armada was tearing itself apart, and there was nothing Xenophon or his comrades could do about it.
For the fiftieth time, he looked down to his Asgeirr-Carbine and checked the ammunition.
We will be ready!
Twelve Hours Earlier, Laconian Titan ‘Valediction’
Strategos Clearchus, Lord Cyrus and Ariaeus, his Median deputy, stood in silence. They waited in the antechamber briefing room that was positioned at the far end of great hall, deep inside the Laconian Titan, Valediction. Although part of the mighty ship, the cavernous interior could easily have been inside a fortress, monastery or even an underground cave complex. The walls were rough, almost like bare rock, and there was a deathly silence that cooled the expanse of emptiness as easily as if they were all stood in the vacuum of space. Stone columns rose to the ceiling and led the eye along to the great arched entrance to the anteroom. In this smaller part of the hall stood an ancient altar upon which sat a number of worn and damaged relics. Most were weapons taken from numerous battle sites; some even taken from the recent action at the Gates of Cilicia. The walls were adorned with stylised artworks and tapestries of glorious actions. The majority of these concerned land battles, but at least one showed a massive space battle, specifically the defeat of the Terran Alliance. The Median noblemen looked a world apart from Clearchus, the seasoned human commander or Strategos as he was known to the Black Legion. Their thinner bodies, pale skin and narrow faces gave them a mythical quality, like a character from an ancient tale of monsters and heroes.